State’s first senior-friendly emergency departments now open
With an eye on the health needs of Rhode Island's aging population, Roger Williams Medical Center and Fatima Hospital have opened the state's first senior-friendly emergency departments. The hospitals launched their senior-focused emergency departments on March 25.
For nearly a year, both emergency departments have undergone physical renovations and modifications, while providing enhanced training and assessment tools for staff. Nurses in the emergency room have completed Geriatric Emergency Nursing Education through the Emergency Nurses Association. Other members of the team – including physicians, pharmacists, social workers, case managers and CNAs – have all received geriatric-specific training to enhance the care that seniors receive.
Beyond the enhanced training, there have been a number of physical and environmental modifications designed to make an elders visit more pleasant. Those include:
- Designated treatment areas for seniors;
- Non-skid/non-glare floors for easier walking;
- Extra thick, pressure-reducing mattresses to enhance comfort and combat the risk of pressure ulcers;
- Portable amplification devices for hearing assistance;
- Sound absorbing ceiling tiles;
- Large print forms and magnifying devices to assist with reading;
- Non-glare lighting;
- Soothing environmental features like soft music, aromatherapy, and television screens with serene images;
The planning, training and renovations involved in the project have been in the works for almost a year and have been guided by Dr. William Thomas, a world-renowned geriatrician who has guided 17 other senior-friendly emergency department projects in other states. The focus on the senior emergency departments is especially meaningful in Rhode Island, where it is projected that one in every five Rhode Island residents will be 65 years or older by 2030.
The enhanced assessment tools now being utilized by staff are one of the most important elements of the senior-friendly emergency department. When a patient over 65 years old comes to the emergency departments at Roger Williams and Fatima, they are not just treated for the ailment that brought them to the hospital. A multi-disciplinary team also performs a series of assessments to gauge the patient’s status and whether they may have poly-pharmacy issues, be a fall risk or suffer from ailments like dementia and depression. These assessments help gauge whether the person has other cognitive or functional issues that may require follow-up care before the condition worsens.
“The senior-friendly emergency departments were built on an evidence-based approach to emergency care for seniors,” said Kenneth H. Belcher, President and CEO. “Older Rhode Islanders and their loved ones can feel comfortable knowing there is a place for emergency care designed specifically for them.”
Both Roger Williams Medical Center and Fatima Hospital are part of the CharterCARE Health Partners’ system. The senior emergency departments are the latest addition to CharterCARE’s continuum of senior health care services, which is the most comprehensive in Rhode Island. Both Roger Williams and Fatima are committed to the NICHE philosophy, which provides nurses and other staff in the hospital with the latest in elder care tools and training. Elmhurst Extended Care, CharterCARE’s nursing home affiliate, is the state’s only Eden Alternative facility, providing a place where elders, families, and staff work together to restore choice, joy and dignity to the lives of those who need long-term care. CharterCARE Home Health Services provides a full range of in-home care. Both hospitals are also home to specialized geriatric psychiatry programs.
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